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Hello - Welcome to my Blog. This Blog suppliments my website to provide a diary of my experiences photographing wildlife and nature throughout Australia and abroad. I hope you find the Blog interesting and the content and images cause you to reflect on how important it is preserve natural places and their inhabitants.

For me photography of the natural world is more than just pretty settings and cuddly animal photos. It's a concern for the environment and the earth all living creatures must share.

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Entries in Sunset (5)

Thursday
Feb262009

Bisti Badlands Wilderness Area, New Mexico

An area infrequently visited area, the Bisti Badlands is an undeveloped park with no facilities, information or track guidance. The access track to the Bisti isn't that erroneous, although there are a few ruts which may annoy 2 wheel vehicle owners.

The Bisti is very similar to the badlands of South Dakota with the exception it's in miniature. If your expecting huge monoliths and breakaways such as found in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks you will be disappointed.

Bisti is a flat area that has been eroded by water over eons of time to erode the badlands below the land's current surface. The region before becoming eroded was a temperate rain forest, and before that, dinosaurs roamed the area.

Of course the dinosaurs are now long gone (pity), however, remnants of the forest can still be found in the guise of mounds of petrified wood.

Many of the rocks in the area have been completely leached of all chemicals leaving only iron oxides.  The iron fives the area a very distinctibe red look when the light's right.

Interesting also is the number of small ricks (image) that dot the landscape.  The rocks are quite heavy (specific gravity) and appear to iron secretions.  It's possible it also had some magnetite, however, I could not check this as I didn't have a compass or magnet handy at the time.

The area is very interesting with sculptures, mini monoliths, and colourful sediment layers. I found the most impressive part of Bisti was the isolation and definite lack of people that you normally encounter in American national parks.

Thursday
Feb122009

Trona Pinnacles, California

Making our way south east from Death Valley, a quick stop was made at a small ghost town 6 miles from the highway. Luckily it wasn't too far off our route as the ghost town was a fizzer and did not warrant a stop.

Further south we passed a small uninspiring town who name eludes me. It seems the only thing it had going for it wads a huge chimney spewing out sulphur dioxide, the waste product from the smelting of some type of ore. The only modern aspect of this town was the fire department which sported new shining red trucks. The area was obviously poor and not wanting to embarrass any of the town occupants we made our way out of town.

Trona Pinnacles (roughly 4 hours drive from Dealth Valley) is one of the most unusual geological features in the California Desert Conservation Area. The unusual landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires (porous rock formed as a deposit from springs of streams), some as high as 140 feet (43 m), rising from the bed of the Searles Lake.

The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa). They now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side. The spires formed underwater between 10,000 to 100,000 years ago during three ice ages.


The low afternoon light at the pinnacles was quite spectacular when the sun poked through the cloud layer. After scoping the area and taking a few Polaroid shots to determine angles, I figured the best shot was to try and capture a line of pinnacles with a pano, rather individual peaks.

I set up the 70-200/2.8 and 300/2.8 on tripods and waited for the cloud to part allowing the peaks to be illuminated in light. I waited and waited and nothing happened! The light was diffused and soft causing the landscape to appear flat, uninviting and uninteresting. I was about to “can” the shoot when the sun finally decided to make an appearance. The light was amazing. The peaks stood out from the surrounding flat environment as the last rays of light illuminated them.

After three pano shots I quickly dismounted the camera and attempted to captures a few of the peaks. As with many low light shoots, it was a race against time attempting to capture as many images as possible in the small time envelope.

I was satisfied with the result, and due to the weather changing (storm clouds approaching) decided to head further south past Edwards Airfiorce Base catching some sleep in a local Motel 6 (not the best accommodation on the planet, but 100% better than a wet sandy tent!

The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen hit movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials and sci-fi movies and television series such as Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, Star Gate and Star Trek V.

THis area is not visited very often because of its relative remoteness.  Altohugh you wouldn't spend a week here, it is well worth a visit - especially in morning or afternoon low light.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Feb112009

Death Valley, California

The drive from Alabama Hills to Death Valley was extremely interesting. The highway runs parallel between two crumple zones that make the Sierra Ranges before slowing gaining altitude to cross the Sierras roughly at 5000 feet. After reaching the alpine desert pass a drop is made into Death Valley.

The most imposing thought on my mind as we descended into Death Valley from the pass is that it is HUGE. The terrain is so expansive that it's very difficult to determine scale. That is until you see a very tiny speck of a car on the valley floor and say "Geez, this place is massive".

Alluvial fans flow from the snow capped Sierra Mountains and prograde into Piedmont fans before transgressing into playa terrain. There's only a few access points to the Death Valley National Park and the road I used passed though a small settlement (post office, gas station and RV park) before crossing the playa to climb another crumple zone before entering Death Valley proper.

Half way across the valley floor I heard a huge roar! Expecting an earthquake or some other large geological event I glanced toward the sky to see a US Airforce F18 (or similar) buzzing the car at only a few hundred feet. The aircraft then banked, turned over and made another run! I was to learn that Death Valley is a training and testing ground for the US Airforce based at Edwards Airforce Base. During the next few days the occasional roar could be heard as a test pilot flew his/her machine close to the valley floor banking and arching like a highly maneuverable insect.

Death Valley is supposed to be - well - very dry. But, on this visit it was raining and much of the park was closed to traffic; before I arrived it had rained heavily and torrential rains had flooded many areas; rock slides and debris covered many of the access tracks and roads. It was unfortunate, but many of the outstanding areas such the "Racetrack" were closed due to heavy rain, flooding and road washouts.

Playa lakes (the area between the mountains which are usually dry) were small shallow lakes and vegetation was surrounded by shallow water. As there was cloud cover, much of the afternoon was spent photographing the snow capped mountains and desert areas inundated with water. At one stage a storm came though and the clouds turned black and ominous looking, however, the rain fell elsewhere.

Despite the damp conditions, much of the area is covered in salt and low lying vegetation. In some areas exquisite salt formations can be seen such as at the Devil's Golf Course. Of cause the whole region is at or below sea level and has the lowest elevation within the United States.

Death Valley has three major dune systems (wind blown sand) and initially when I first saw the dunes I thought they were piles of dirt set aside for road crews to maintain the road. I was shocked when I saw the scale of these dunes - as with everything in this area the dunes were HUGE and expansive. The dune morphology was very fine sand shaped by unidirectional winds to form barcan dune systems.

Initially I thought it would be best to hike to the dunes (only a mile or so from the road), however, on careful observation I noted that many of the dunes were imprinted with marks from the recent rain, and from some careless visitors who had climbed several of the dunes. As it was almost sunset and the light was low I decided to use my 500/4 telephoto in landscape mode rather than hike out and maybe miss the golden light.

I spent two nights in Death Valley (I would have spent more if rain had not closed off several sections of the park). Road crews were busy repairing sections of tracks that had been made impassable, however, I doubted their task when I observed a tractor sweeping dust from the highway!

Sunsets were spent on the playa photographing the changing vista with salt and salt puddle formations in the foreground while the two sunrises were spent at Zabriskie Point, an area noted for it colourful rock formations and back dropped by the massive snow capped Sierra Range.

Sunrise in Death Valley is cold, however, due to cloud cover the temperatures were not as severe as they could have been. Still, an icy wind seemed to permeate every layer I wore and my hands stung - especially when manipulating a carbon fiber tripod. Zabriskie Point was not disappointing and many images could be created at this location due to the changing colours and formations; leading lines and s curves can be seen everywhere!

The final morning was spent photography two desert ravens. Ravens are very intelligent and it was interesting to note the behavior between these two birds. At one stage one bird collected some food and keeping the food in its crop hopped toward the other bird. The raven then offered the morsel to its partner. I have never seen this behavior before, despite spending many hours observing ravens.

 

Thursday
Feb052009

Northern Elephant Seals, California

 

During the afternoon after photographing Sea Otters at Moss Landing we made the 2 hour drive south to Piedras Blancas to photograph the Elephant Seals. It was hoped to capture the seals in the later afternoon "golden light", however the seal colony is not ideally positioned to take full advantage of the afternoon light. Despite this, it was a productive afternoon as the male bulls were particularly active in securing their territories from rival males. 

As evening approached the marine layer (sea fog) preceeding a westerly frontal change slowly made its way toward shore. The mist was chilled the atmosphere several degrees cooler as it came closer to shore and quickly enveloped several rocky outcrops offshore. It soon became apparent why the California coast has many lighthouses and fog horn that sound continually. Any mariner would have a difficult time in securing passage in such foggy conditions. By night fall the fog had moved slightly inland a visibility driving back to Moss Landing was only a few meters at the most.

I am amazed at the diversity of habitats and wildlife that occur in northern California. Usually marine mammals breed on offshore islands

away from urban coastal development, however, California authorities have been determined to protect vital breeding areas for certain mammals allowing them full reign of prime coastal areas.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jan272009

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is a vibrant colourful city and cannot be compared with its southern cousin Los Angeles. The two aspect of San Francisco which stand out in my mind is the architecture and the Golden Gate bridge. Lines and style compose this city and each apartment and house block sports a different style of iron gate. Restaurants and food in general are world class and the people very friendly and accommodating.

There is so much to see and photograph in this city and its surrounds that deciding what to do and what to photograph is quite difficult. The morning and evening winter light is exceptionally photogenic and one can easily spend a fortnight on location.

To be honest, when I thought of photographing the bridge I wasn't too enthused.  After all this is not wildlife.  But, after seeing the bridge you cannot help but want to photograph it in the many moods that SF offers.